Obama, McCain campaigns spar over credit card donations
As the 2008 presidential campaign nears its dramatic finish, both candidates’ online donation procedures are being scrutinized for legitimacy.
Pundits on both sides are howling fraud, and at the heart of the issue is the difference between how Barack Obama and John McCain’s Web sites handle credit and debit card-based contributions. Obama’s Web site, according to bloggers from the New York Times, checks the donation’s legitimacy after the transaction is processed, which has allowed some people to donate money under false names. In contrast, McCain’s Web site compares the name of the donor with the card being used before the transaction is complete.
Many conservative bloggers have accused Obama’s online contribution procedures as too lenient, pointing to examples of people donating under such names as Osama Bin Laden and Bill Ayers. But the Obama camp says new donations are reviewed twice a day by lawyers and refunded if they are confirmed as fraudulent. Accounts of credit card abuse lead to instant refunds, campaign staffers told the Washington Post, and fraudulent contributions represent only about 1 percent of Obama’s massive $600 million war chest.
Conservatives also point to McCain’s Web site, which features a searchable database of donors, as an example of transparency. But, according to the Obama camp, McCain’s contributor database is clouded by about 200 donations listed as “anonymous,” and even donations from “Jesus II” and “Adorable Manabat.”
According to the National Journal, donations by credit cards are not required to be tracked and campaigns don’t store credit card information due to security issues. Currently, most campaigns sort contributors by their name, address and other information.
Guidelines established by the Federal Election Commission say donors who give less than $200 have to provide their name, employer and current city. However, if that information is missing, the rules can be stalled if the campaign sends a letter to the donor and asks for the required information. Campaigns do not have to keep records of donations under $50.